April Showers Bring....A Mess
This Spring is turning out to be one of the wettest seasons on record! Here at Mousaian Oriental Rugs we have received numerous phone calls regarding rugs that have been caught in house floods. Hopefully this has not happened to you, but if it does, this newsletter will give some information you should know.
Water and Wool
The first thing you should know is that water is NOT a natural enemy of wool rugs. In fact, one of the final steps in weaving a hand-knotted rug is a rigorous wash with water -- sometimes even in a local river. Wool is an extremely forgiving material and withstands many assaults. The natural components of wool allow it to absorb large amounts of water and still dry very quickly. In fact, water can help rejuvenate the lanolin in the wool and restore the luster of the rug. Wool and water are friends -- as long as the rug can dry fairly quickly.
If your rug does get wet, the first thing you should do is get it dry! Sop up as much water as you can with dry towels. You can even roll up the rug and stand it upright so water will flow out of the bottom. Then, lay it flat to air dry -- placing a fan on it or setting it outside could speed up the process. Water will not necessarily damage the rug as long as it dries relatively quickly. If water remains in the rug for more than 4-5 days, then you run the risk of developing mold and mildew in the fibers and foundation. Oftentimes, the musty smell of a once-wet rug is mildew or mold spores that have begun to grow. A professional cleaning can help eliminate the mold and mildew -- and the musty smell! Long-term exposure to moisture can be damaging -- especially if your wool rug is woven on a cotton foundation. Cotton does not handle moisture quite like wool does. If cotton does not dry completely the moisture will begin breaking down the cotton fibers. This leads to dry rot -- the cotton literally disintegrates and you are left will a big hole in your rug.
Another problem with wet rugs that is difficult to prevent is color run. In some cases, the dyed wool (especially red dyed wool) can bleed into lighter colors. This can happen if the wool is dyed with natural dyes as well as synthetic dyes and is more likely to occur on newer rugs. In some cases the problem can be treated, especially if the damage is to the fringe. Most often, however, this is a permanent problem. If you have color run in your rug take it to a professional to examine the extent of the problem. This does not occur on all rugs that get wet -- in fact most rugs are washed immediately after weaving without any problems. The color run is strictly a result of poor dyeing techniques of the wool.
The most common cause of water damage to rugs isn't flooding -- it's potted plants! Placing a potted plant on an Oriental rug is asking for disaster. Water can easily seep through the pot or spill over when watering. The water sits under the pot with no chance of drying and dry rot WILL occur. Although that new Easter Lily looks beautiful sitting on the corner of your rug, it needs to find a better home!